Military interrogators at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq learned about the use of military working dogs to intimidate detainees from a team of interrogators dispatched from the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to court testimony yesterday.
One interrogation analyst also testified that sleep deprivation and forced nudity -- which were used in Cuba on high-value detainees -- later were approved tactics at Abu Ghraib. Another soldier said that interrogators would regularly pass instructions to have dog handlers and military police "scare up" detainees as part of interrogation plans, part of an approved approach that relied on exploiting the fear of dogs.
The preliminary hearing at Fort Meade, Md., for two Army dog handlers accused of mistreating detainees provided more evidence that severe tactics approved for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo migrated to Iraq and spiraled into the notorious abuse at Abu Ghraib in the late summer and early fall of 2003. The testimony came days after an internal military investigation showed the similarity between techniques used on the suspected "20th hijacker" in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and tactics seen in photographs at the prison that shocked the world.
Several Republican senators are pushing legislation -- opposed by the White House -- that would regulate the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo and other military prisons. One of them, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), released recently declassified internal memos written in 2003 by the military's top lawyers in which they warned the Pentagon about developing severe tactics, arguing that they would heighten danger for U.S. troops caught by the enemy, among other problems.
"We have taken the legal and moral 'high-road' in the conduct of our military operations regardless of how others may operate," Air Force Maj. Gen. Jack L. Rives wrote in a Feb. 5, 2003, memo. "We need to consider the overall impact of approving extreme interrogation techniques as giving official approval and legal sanction to the application of interrogation techniques that U.S. forces have consistently been trained are unlawful."
At Fort Meade yesterday, soldiers testified that the top military intelligence officer at the prison, Col. Thomas M. Pappas, approved the use of dogs for interrogations. Maj. Matthew Miller, a prosecutor, also revealed that Pappas, faced with a request from interrogators to use dogs on three stubborn detainees captured at the same time as then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, "admitted he failed to ask" Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, then the top general in Iraq, for approval as he was supposed to have done.
Pvt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick, one of the ringleaders of abuse by military police who is serving an eight-year prison term, testified by phone from Fort Leavenworth, Kan., that interrogators were authorized to use dogs and that a civilian contract interrogator left him lists of the cells he wanted dog handlers to visit. "They were allowed to use them to . . . intimidate inmates," Frederick said.
Sgt. Santos A. Cardona, 31, of California, and Sgt. Michael J. Smith, 24, of Florida, are charged with maltreatment of detainees, largely for allegedly encouraging and permitting unmuzzled working dogs to threaten and attack them. Prosecutors have focused on an incident caught in published photographs, when the two men allegedly cornered a naked detainee and allowed the dogs to bite him on each thigh as he cowered in fear.
The dog handlers also allegedly participated in a "contest" to see who could make more detainees urinate or defecate on themselves, but defense attorneys contended that there is no actual witness to such a game and that the claims were merely rumors that spread throughout the prison.
This week's hearing is the military's equivalent of a civilian preliminary court hearing or grand jury investigation. Maj. Glenn Simpkins, as investigating officer, will recommend whether authorities should send charges to a court-martial, whether the soldiers should face administrative punishment or whether no charges should be pursued.
Cardona faces nine separate counts and a possible maximum sentence of 161/2 years in prison; Smith faces 14 separate counts and a possible maximum sentence of 291/2 years in prison.
Smith's lawyer, Capt. Jason Duncan, questioned a military interrogator, Spec. John Harold Ketzer, who acknowledged that a staff sergeant from Guantanamo had trained him on how to use dogs during questioning of detainees.
That staff sergeant, James Vincent Lucas, told Army investigators that he traveled from Cuba to Iraq from October to December 2003 as part of a six-person team to bring his "lessons learned" and to "provide guidelines" to interrogators at Abu Ghraib who were setting up their operation, according to investigative documents obtained by The Washington Post.
Lucas said in a statement that he saw no abuse but was aware that "short chaining" was used on some detainees "and clothing removal could be employed." "It would be part of the interrogation plan and approved by 'higher,' " Lucas told investigators, adding that there was a lot of nakedness at Abu Ghraib and a fair amount of brainstorming about innovative and aggressive techniques.
"Removal of clothing for interrogation purposes was a 'questionable technique' that needed approval and was allowed in [Guantanamo], but rarely occurred."
Harvey Volzer, Cardona's civilian attorney, said he plans to call at least one witness today to talk about a September 2003 visit to Abu Ghraib by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, then in charge of the Guantanamo prison. "There's a direct link between Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib," Volzer said.
Researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.